IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — John Groce spent the off-week with his team focused on toughness and togetherness. It’s already paying off.
Malcom Hill scored 21 points and hauled down eight rebounds and Illinois held on for a 70-66 win over Iowa on Saturday. The Illini took the lead in the final minutes on a Hill layup and fended off several Iowa chances late to win their second true road game of the season.
“We gave great effort,” Groce said. “It took every ounce of that effort to come out of here with a win. They showed great mental and physical toughness. That’s what I’m most proud of.”
Michael Finke, Jalen Coleman-Lands and Te’Jon Lucas each scored 12 points for the Illini (15-12, 5-9 Big Ten).
Lucas blocked Jordan Bohannon’s go-ahead layup attempt in the final two minutes to protect Illinois’ 62-61 lead, and then Coleman-Lands knocked down a corner 3-pointer with 1:32 left.
Peter Jok had 16 points and 10 rebounds to lead Iowa (14-13, 6-8). The Hawkeyes have lost three straight.
Iowa had plenty of chances late. The Hawkeyes missed five of their six shots in the final 1:45 and had a nearly seven-minute stretch without a field goal earlier in the second half.
“It usually comes down to a mistake or two,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “We did so many good things, and we did some things that obviously weren’t as good, and they capitalized on those.”
Tyler Cook had 14 points and Bohannon added 11 for Iowa.
Illinois: The Illini seems to have turned around their road struggles. Illinois dropped its first five true road games before wins over Iowa and Northwestern this month. Groce said nothing has really changed — it’s more of a sign of his team staying the course.
Iowa: The inconsistencies continue for the young Hawkeyes. Iowa’s last nine games have produced two three-game losing streaks and a three-game winning streak. The Hawkeyes shot only 39 percent from the floor against Illinois.
Iowa players wore white shooting shirts with “Arnold” and the No. 30 on the back during pregame warm-ups to show support for former Hawkeye Kenny Arnold.
Arnold, one of the best players on Iowa’s last Final Four team in 1980, has lived the last few years in a Chicago nursing home. A malignant brain tumor in 1985 and a series of strokes cost Arnold his ability to speak, and he’s faced constant pain that sometimes leaves him bed-ridden.
Several of Arnold’s teammates were in attendance and all wore Arnold’s No. 30 shirt. Many Hawkeye fans did too. Iowa is selling the shirts and proceeds will help support Arnold’s medical needs.
Arnold, who isn’t able to travel, received a standing ovation.
HE SAID IT
“People are counting us out, but we still believe in our team and our staff,” Illinois guard Te’Jon Lucas said. “We feel we can still make a run.”
The Illini overcame 17 turnovers by shooting 55 percent in the second half . Hill reached the 1,700-point mark for this career and moved into seventh on Illinois’ all-time scoring list . The Hawkeyes made 17 of 22 free throws, but Bohannon — an 88 percent shooter — missed two with Illinois leading 62-61 with 2:14 to play.
Illinois returns home on Tuesday to face in-state rival Northwestern, which the Illini knocked off earlier this month for their first road win of the season.
Iowa faces struggling Indiana on Tuesday, which has lost four straight and six of its last seven.